It’s caucus night in Iowa. We’ll forego the obligatory “Why does Iowa get to vote first” discussion, especially as its track record of picking the eventual nominees is spotty, at best. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. To wit: Will Trump win or lose and Will Clinton win or lose.
The Iowa Caucus, unlike a primary, is massively dependent on a ‘get out the vote’ strategy. Whichever campaign has the best ground game has the best chance to win. On top of that, there is, apparently, a blizzard looming in the mid-West. It’s not clear if Trump has a sufficient vote mobilization plan. On the democratic side, Sanders seems to be gaining on Clinton and he might have the logistical support to get his supporters to caucus locations.
On the Republican side, what if Trump wins? As of today, he is leading in the polls in the remaining 3 early voting states (New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada). A win tonight would cement his lead position and he would be 4 for 4 going into Super Tuesday. How does he not march to the nomination after that start? Would not a win tonight make him inevitable?
What if Ted Cruz wins tonight? What if Trump comes in second? Seems to me there are two scenarios:
Scenario 1: The slow fade to irrelevance.
Trump has run a campaign that is “Winners Are Great, Everyone Else, Losers” (Remember Trump loves veterans who don’t get captured). If Trump comes in second he would be a loser. And if he is a loser, why should folks back his run. How this would translate is the question. Are there people in New Hampshire that would stop backing Trump if he doesn’t come in first in Iowa? Right now, according to the Real Clear Politics poll aggregator, Trump has a 22 point lead. Could a loss tonight drop that lead to the 10-11 points or even single digits? And if Trump starts to deflate, even a victory in New Hampshire may not halt his slide out of relevancy. (For those of you old enough to remember, in 1992 George HW Bush (R) and Paul Tsongas (D) would the New Hampshire Primary. The story was the surprising strength of Pat Buchannan on the Republican side and how well Bill Clinton performed on the Democrat side. It was that New Hampshire 2nd place finish that earned Clinton the sobriquet “The Comeback Kid”).
Scenario 2: Ignoring the Results.
Trump loses and he ignores the result. Instead of acknowledging the loss as a loss, he spins it that it is not him, but blames the voters. He brands Iowans stupid for not voting for him, deriding them as losers and beneath contempt and just focuses on New Hampshire.
I’m not confident Trump has the Get Out the Vote campaign. His popularity will not translate into votes.
- Trump/ Rubio (tie)
On the Democratic side, the race is and remains Clinton’s to lose. This campaign began as a coronation and it is becoming some sort of Progressive/Liberal version of the War of the Roses. As to who are the Plantagenets and who are the Yorks, I don’t know. I suspect the Onion article last Friday, Retreating Clinton Campaign Torches Iowa Town to Slow Advance of Sanders Volunteers is probably a little closer to the truth than Clinton people would like.
While Clinton doesn’t need to win Iowa, losing would be a massive blow. It would mark the second campaign in which she lost Iowa. And unlike 2008, she’s not going to win New Hampshire. Clinton cannot overcome Sanders built in favored son status. If she loses tonight, she drops the first votes on 2016.
But she is up huge in South Carolina, so she has a firebreak. Sanders won’t be able to overcome the Clinton machine there. But it would change the dynamic. The question would then become not whether she would win, but how close of a race Sanders can make it.
The other benefit for Clinton is the virtual impossibility of any other democrats being able to jump into the primary races. (Deadlines for getting on the ballots for some of those races have long since passed).
Add in the very real possibility that she could be indicted because of the email scandal, and the coronation would start to look anything but. In fact, her staff may have to consider buying an Oculus Rift VR headset to allow Clinton to reign over a virtual world.
That being said, I think Clinton will eke out a slight victory.
- O’Malley (Someone will vote for him